Open spaces // garbage cans.

I recently took this photo at a gas station in Arizona near the Texas border. I knew it reminded me of something.

Later I remembered that when I drove a van from Los Angeles to New York in the summer of 2001, I stopped at a place called the Badlands Ranch in South Dakota.


I was taken with the land in South Dakota and scenes like this:

Which makes me wonder: am I always subconsciously searching for something that I forgot about?

Norma Catherine, Fade to Goodbye

One of my favorite voices.


RCP Vinyl!

I should have mentioned this a month ago at its release but better late than never. After five digital years, RACECAR puts out vinyl! Holla.


Missed them so much. 


A Place to Bury Strangers

Photo credit: Elise Thompson

If anyone asks if you want to go see A Place to Bury Strangers, the correct answer is YES. They are from Brooklyn but I saw them last night at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati. Someone somewhere called them the loudest band in New York. That label seems to be sticking and while they weren't exactly quiet, they didn't make my ears bleed at all. I'd describe them oh damn with a side of heck yeah.

Despite the fact that the venue lost power four or five times during the show, the guys in the band were terribly good-natured and funny about it right up until the end when they may have lost it a bit. Even then, five minutes after the show was over they were outside smiling. Somehow I didn't think it detracted from the show, on the contrary I like it when people rally. When the drummer gets out from behind his kit to share his bottle with the audience. And the crowd claps until they're back up.

The only guy who took it like a chump was the one I couldn't figure out. Was he a guitar tech in a bike helmet or a local crazy? Grabbing the mic stand from the side of stage and moving it or, even better, twirling it in front of the monitor. Yelling about how the art museum can't get their shit together. Dude. They are the loudest band in New York. And people are having fun. You are wearing a bike helmet with rearview mirrors in a dark room.


this is not a story about how I have scabies

This is not a story about how I have scabies. Namely because I don't have scabies! But I thought I did, which made for a fun weekend.

Ten days ago I was getting ready for bed and Matthew noticed that I had red bumps all over my boobs and stomach. This had escaped my attention how? I do not know. They didn't itch and weren't horribly inflamed and I'm guessing they showed up that day. Whatever, allergic reaction. Goodnight.

Two days later they were horribly inflamed and were starting to itch. They had also spread to my back, my crotch, and were creeping up my shoulders to my neck. I am officially gross. I called my doctor's office - a group practice - and got an appointment for the next day. When I told M who I had an appointment with, he groaned. "I forgot to warn you about her," he said.

Several years ago, Matthew had MRSA and this woman, a nurse practitioner, diagnosed it as herpes and sent him on his way. And not just herpes but herpes in his NOSE. Nose herpes! It was MRSA which, in case you don't know, is a bacterial infection that eats away at your flesh. In fact, just the other day M showed me a pit in his shin where MRSA had gobbled him up.

So I wasn't psyched about baring my chest for this same lady but I felt desperate and went ahead, despite the fact that there are doctors that I surely could have bullied my way into. Regrettably, that makes the fact that I walked out of the clinic angry kind of my fault.

The nurse practitioner asked me a few questions and then said it looks like pityriasis rosea. Pity-wha? She said it usually starts with one larger red patch and then breaks out. Did I have that large initial herald patch? Nope. Oh well, anyway, it's often misdiagnosed as ringworm, she said. She had an intern go get a dermatology book and read aloud from it, punctuating the sentences with, "See? I told you!" Making me feel even less assured of her authority than I already was. You don't need to prove anything to me, lady (Actually you do, but you don't know that) you're just supposed to know what you're talking about.

She said there was nothing I could do except wait for it to go away, which might take a few months. I was all AGH! and then GR! and it was at this point that I put my shirt on and stormed out.

I was going to flash forward a few hours here to when I am at home moping, itchy, and mad at myself but I think I'll mention first the spectacularly irresponsible thing I did. I went to Nordstrom Rack and shopped AKA retail therapy AKA I need more clothes to cover this rash that is threatening to devour my entire body including my face. I already have armwarmers but I'm low on turtlenecks and ski masks. Because I was feeling grossly unattractive, my thoughts were developing along the lines of "Does my rash make me look fat?" Yes, I need a dress or two to cover up my fat, spotted ass.

Look. I have never denied being emotional.

Anyway, it was irresponsible not because of the money spent but because I was trying on clothes, rubbing my disease all over that stuff. Remember, I didn't believe it was pityriasis rosea, I was fixating on shingles, bedbugs, and scabies as new and contagious possibilities. Matthew and I went to dinner that night with Doug and Jacquie and I made a point not to bring up my scabes as I'd started calling them.

M and I started calling each other "scabes" instead of "babes". He gave me a pep talk that started with, "At least there isn't pus..." and he promised it didn't look that bad but given the fact that I have eyes, I knew he was just being nice.

On Saturday night, I wanted to see Jane who was in town but I'd gone into full-blown compulsive itching overtime. I went to the drugstore and stocked up on everything that might make my skin feel better: Calamine, Antihistamine, oatmeal bath packs. Matthew threatened to rub me all over with Tinactin. "What's that for?" I asked. "Jock itch," he said and I squinted meanly at him. And laughed. And then squinted again.

When Jane called I was in my oatmeal bath which, incidentally, was kind of torture. Partly because of my jockitchscabieshingles but also because I don't fit in bathtubs. I have to do yoga to try to get my whole body in the water and then I lie there wondering when it will be over. My child pose for the night was the one I created to get my tits and neck submerged. I flopped on my stomach and turned my head to the side, propping the side of my face up on the tub's incline.

When I finally extracted myself and called Jane back, I realized she was out with Seema, our friend who is a doctor. Yes! I would show Seema the rash and grill her on my prognosis while unwinding with a tasty beer. I meant to do this early in the evening but we got distracted by all the commotion in the street near our table: police interrogations, an unresponsive woman wheeled off on a stretcher, a cop walking by with a full sized stop sign, post, and street sign in his arms that someone ripped out. Kentucky is like that sometimes.

We moved on to our favorite local gay bar, Rosie's Tavern, where our neighbor was working. Shannon bought us a round and complimented me on my dress to which I did not respond, "Thanks, I bought it to hide a disfiguring condition, thanks a lot." Several pints later, I described my situation to Seema and told her I thought it was scabies. She asked if there were grey lines running between the bumps (scabie tunnels). No, I told her, there weren't, Matthew already looked for that with his microscope.

Seema laughed and said something about how special it is that he has a microscope. Oh, I mean, magnifying glass. Not microscope. I maybe should have talked about this when I was a teensie bit more sober instead of yelling over the jukebox about microscopes. She said it sounds like pityriasis rosea which would have been awesome if it were treatable / anyone seemed to know what to do about it.

I called the practice back on Monday and demanded a reference to a dermatologist. I saw the dermatologist. I told him I had an Icelandic honeymoon to go on soon and did not want my being a leper to get us kicked out of the thermal baths. It would be a funny story later but I don't actually want to be banned from the Blue Lagoon. The dermatologist was nice and grandfatherly and said, "What you have is something called pityriasis rosea."


The good news was that even though we don't really know why it strikes - maybe it's viral, maybe not - you don't have to just sit around and take it. I got a shot in the hip, a steroid cream, and an order to get sun. Within a couple of days it was looking a tragillion times better. Yee haw.


His gaze, it is so piercing

Matthew helped his parents clean out their basement. He and I now have something special on display in our home.



I snapped this photo with a disposable camera last June when Matthew and I were in Arizona. We didn't get it developed for a full year and when I saw the photos this summer, this was my favorite. There were others that were clearer or brighter but I like the mood of this bend in the road.


23 shots of the summer

June - September

This is a view from the Los Angeles hotel room.

Let this represent the end of May through June since I didn't take a photo in the car. When I wasn't at the hotel, I was at the office or rehearsal studio. I also spent hours and hours in the rental car with Kevin driving between hotel and studio.

After disagreeing about whose route takes the longest, I think we both agree that they both take A FUCK OF A LONG TIME. If there is a hell it looks like Lankershim Avenue.

Matthew sent me this after downtown Los Angeles was lit on fire over a basketball game.

I happened to be at the office the day that the Lakers beat the Boston Celtics and since I know dipsquat about professional sports I was clueless as to why every single person on my floor left early. I was seriously ALONE. I presume they all left to watch the game. Or they all had dentist appointments.

I like this Toronto corner. I like Toronto in general. To be perfectly honest, I'm kind of pissed off that I'm not Canadian.

Good Morning America in Central Park.
Photo: Neil Wilson

Me in Manchester, NH being not amused.
Photo: Kevin Mann

Me in Washington, DC being not amused.
Photo: Kevin Mann

On a day off in Washington DC I walked to the National Gallery of Art. I stopped at the Rothko exhibit, sat on a bench in the middle of the room, and watched people look at black canvases. Ha ha.

What do they see when they look at a big black square? What are they thinking?

According to the exhibit materials, Rothko painted the black collection in 1964 and the gallery invites us to question the simple equation of darkness and despair and to re-imagine blackness as a medium of light - nuanced, expansive, and even hopeful.

A wall in New York, NY

In Tampa I spent the first half of the day working. At 2 pm I went to the beach and roamed around taking photos like this.

A few hours later someone who shall remain nameless, okay it was Neil Wilson, plunked down next to me, spread out his towel and handed me a giant bottle of Stoli Blakberi.

This photo represents the beginning of the end and by end I mean I think I'm due for a blackout, it's been awhile. Take that, everyone who's been saying I work too much.

The good news is that when I'm in a blackout I just get really happy. And mellow. And no one ever has any idea that I'm that drunk. The bad news is braincells. Ah, well.

On a long drive from Florida to Texas, Monica goes to have cereal in the front lounge. The milk from the fridge pours out in icicles. She eats it anyway.

On a long drive from Texas to Arizona, I wake up to this. It goes on for awhile.

A truckstop in Arizona

In my hotel room in Phoenix was a head. When you sat on the couch it stared at you WITH NO EYES. I read a book across from it and kept looking up at its black eye holes. I got increasingly more unnerved and eventually defaulted to one of my fear modes.

Demons. The head was a portal for a demon and I'M NEXT.

When Monica, Kevin, and Leila stopped by I asked them if the head was creepy and they said, resoundingly, yes. I put the head on the floor, facing the wall. That somehow made it worse. Kevin put it at the foot of my bed and they all laughed and I actually got a little pissed off until he moved it. Eventually, I put the head outside.

This is what it looked like if you walked by the patio.
Photo: Tim Urban

In Los Angeles my boss gave me a wedding present, part of which was a Gangsta Rap Coloring Book.

A giant statue in Denver, CO

Towards the end of the tour, I was keeping photos like this on my desktop and sending them to people WHO SHARE MY SENSE OF HUMOR when they wanted something. You want to send a fax? Go eff yourself. I'm going home. Love ya.


Since I was on blog vacation during the AI tour and just got back to my life, there's a big gaping June-September hole of what I've been doing, not just here on Ronckytonk but in most of my friendships. I made very few personal phone calls, I was a machine. Matthew even made a design for it.

Much of my last three months I can't talk about, not because of the confidentiality contract I signed but because of BORING. A bunch of factors kept me in a state of catch-up for months and I'd guess the first deep breath I took was in late July. Ahh. I'd spent my days off until then at hotel room desks and when I got a few hours free I'd walk outside to clear my mind.

Once, in New York, I was desperate to leave the hotel room but HAD to finish some paperwork so I took my folders to a pub in the East Village. I was so pleased with myself that I didn't mind looking like a raging geek and, in fact, happily reminisced about college in Ecuador when most papers I turned in reeked of spilled tequila.

Even when you're a nerd on tour, however, you get around despite yourself so there are photos. I think maybe a pictorial timeline is in order, what do you think?


laughing quietly to myself

About how I just found a draft of a blog post I started in June that says, "I am the most indifferent person I know when it comes to..." and ends. I guess I was too indifferent to finish the sentence.


Indiana: Restart Your Engines

The day after the Idol tour ended in Indianapolis last week, I had lunch with Monica. I was going back to the hotel after lunch to do paperwork and Monica would fly to New York. I was also going to have dinner at Alison's house and was telling Monica about Rocky Ripple, where Ali lives.

It's a tiny town within the city, only a mile square. Actually I made that up, I don't know how big Rocky Ripple is. But it's so small that it has only one cop named Marshal Mike who sits and watches and waits for people to do something wrong.

"Like what?" Monica asked.

"Like roll through a stop sign," I said, remembering what Ali's told me.

"Is it a gated community?" Monica asked.

"Oh no, it's old and wooded with big trees, no gates or country clubs or anything like that."

"It sounds like that black and white TV show that had whistling at the beginning of it," said Monica.

"The Andy Griffith Show?" I laughed and shot down a few more of Monica's ideas about Rocky Ripple, like it having a single-celled jail or a grandmotherly receptionist with a fistful of skeleton keys.

Ali picked me up that night and drove me back to her house.

"Just how big is Rocky Ripple?" I asked her, curious as to how much I had embellished for Monica. "Three hundred homes," Ali said.

Aha, maybe I hadn't lied after all. I love it when I accidentally tell the truth. Just then, she pointed left down a street and said, "There he is, in his UNMARKED CAR."

A ways down the block Marshal Mike sat quietly at the curb watching the intersection.

We drove around the block so we could pass him and wave and giggle because we are like TEN YEARS OLD and that was that. I was ready to sit on the kitchen floor, drink a glass of wine, and try not to pass out because that's all I want to do the day after tour ends.

I didn't quite lapse into a stupor but I did get a tiny bit hypnotized by Ali's baby's feet. I don't know what it is about baby feet but they both blow my mind and freak me out. I can't get over how little and perfect they are and I want to take them home with me. But just the feet, not the whole baby.

I am as disturbed by that as you are FYI.

By 8:30 pm I was full of good food and cross-eyed enough to fall asleep standing. Ali drove me back to the hotel and I thought what nice visit that was and I thought I'd gotten my Indiana fix.

Until I got an email yesterday telling me that I missed this action: A man was driving a golden retriever around Rocky Ripple in a golf cart and almost got macked by an Explorer at the stop sign. AND MARSHAL MIKE MISSED IT WTF.

You have a lot of explaining to do, mister.